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Se7en + 1 Reasons to Keep on Reading Aloud to your Kids…

September 10th, 2014 · 26 Comments

I really wanted to write a post for World Literacy Day and then we ended up spending the afternoon reading through a huge pile of books and it occurred to me that that was a far more appropriate way to spend any day, especially World Literacy Day. I am all for literacy… and placing a real live book in the hands of every child. But I think the world has become a little obsessed with reading. Gasp… I hear a gasp. Now I am no educational expert, and I have a relatively small number of students in my school, but hear me out:


  1. The Myth of a Literate Society:
  2. We claim to live in a world of such advanced education and everyone is dashing to get ahead. Little children have less and less play time all in the name of learning how to read. How many times do I hear the lament: “If only my child would read…” When I went to school, it was to learn to read, now if your child hasn’t done two years of preschool and sitting at a desk, they are on the back foot, behind before they begin, in fact.

    But for all the advancement if you look at many modern picture books written for a preschooler and compare it to say, anything by Beatrix Potter, our children will understand and get both – but there is no literary comparison. It turns out in the era when people were not so busy with flash cards, or “how to read apps,” children and the ordinary adults that read aloud to those children had a far greater vocabulary and dare I say a closer affinity to the true meaning of literacy.


  3. Reading and Literacy Are Just Not the Same Thing:
  4. Not all my children are good readers, but they are all literate, in the sense that they have heard and internalised hundreds of great books. I am really not afraid to say it out-loud, horrors of horrors, we homeschool and not all my children are good readers. We haven’t struggled over reading, we haven’t ever said – this child is a good reader or that one is an appalling reader, but for some readers it takes a while for their decoding skills to catch up to their listening skills.

    There are many situations where my slower readers would have been labeled and they would definitely have been placed in a remedial class in a school, but in the learning environment they are in, they are oblivious to labels, blissfully unaware that there is an age by which reading “has to be mastered.” The point is there is no reason, in this day and age, for the child that takes longer to learn to read to be necessarily illiterate. And there is no reason for the child, who takes longer to actually read, not to love books.


  5. Reading is a Skill:
  6. I cannot tell you how often I receive requests from parents asking me how to speed up their children on their educational journey. Their child is way to advanced for their age, everything “age appropriate is totally dull” and what activities can they give their children to get ahead. My answer is always the same: let them make mud-pies. I firmly believe that children should be playing, and that the “academically advanced child” probably needs to get outdoors and needs to play even more than most.

    Children that are truly advanced in their thinking should be spread wider and opportunities for them to explore the world should abound. Honestly, reading is a skill and is all about being able to decode what is written on the page. The child that teaches itself to read at age three is no more brilliant than the twelve year old, who quietly progresses from sounding out words to fluency without anybody noticing. These children might have different reading skills, but that doesn’t make one brighter than the other. And certainly, there is no reason on earth why one of these children should end up more literate than the other, or why one of them should be read to more or less than others.


  7. Children Should be Playing:
  8. All sorts of developmental things have to happen in a child’s life before a child can read. If a student is three or thirteen reading is still a skill. I am sure that somewhere there is good research that says it is more important for the young child to play outdoors, to run and jump and leap than it is to spend hours sounding out words in easy readers. When a friend of mine told me that her child was repeating grade 1 and wasn’t allowed to do any extra-murals because her reading was behind, and she had to stay in for extra seat work. I could have wept on the spot. That child is unlikely to grow up with a passion for books. When reading sounds much more like a punishment than a privilege you cannot possibly expect to be encouraging a love of reading. And you have to notice that passing tests, getting a certain grade and ticking boxes on a developmental chart have become far more important than actual literacy and a love of reading.

    It is quite common practice to read excellent books to a child until they start to learn to read and then they have to read mindless books. Beginner readers are very often, nothing short of dull. And forever after, these young readers are left to their own reading devices. May I encourage you that in order to keep them excited and interested in reading you have to continue to read to them – good books, excellent books, exciting books, books way above their reading level. Don’t be impatient with your reluctant readers, don’t rush your beginner readers. I am all for kids doing hard work and there are times when learning to read is just that. But in the name of literacy, if your children need to work give them chores to do, and then settle down and read to them.


  9. When Folk Insist That Their Children Read:
  10. How on earth do you force a child to read – I have no idea, the child that doesn’t want to read simply doesn’t look at the words. However you can not prevent a child from being hooked by a good story and listening away for hours. A good book is a good book for any age and telling a child to read a book because it is a good one is the most effective way of ensuring a child will never ever read it. However, when I have suggested sitting down and reading the same book to the same child I have rarely been turned down. And when I have been turned down, there is nothing to stop you sitting next to the “lego construction” of the day and simply beginning. I have found that even the most intense lego architect will slow their construction rate for a superb book.

    If you have never read to your children, or you fear your reading skills are not up to scratch, or you just can’t face reading a five hundred page book out loud. I could allay your fears and say: your skills are fine or just read a chapter at a time. If you still aren’t convinced welcome to the world of audible books. So many books are available online for free, borrow an audible book from the library and listen together. Buy a classic, with a great reader, from audible books every other month and listen to it together. Your life will be richer for it. And you will be doing heaps for your family’s literacy.


  11. Don’t be Misled by the Avid Reader:
  12. The child that flies through thousands of books isn’t necessarily more literate than the child who is reading one good book over the Summer. This is my problem with reading programs that reward children for reading a number of books. The child may indeed wind their way through series after series of book. But that doesn’t mean they are more literate than the child who has plodded through one great classic. One has to ask, who has used their imagination more who has spent more time in deep contemplation. Let’s face it there are plenty of series aimed at the reluctant reader, packed with every trick to entice them to read. It is the same story again and again with a different cover on it. I have found that reading a variety of good books to my kids and smothering them in rich language and ideas does more for their overall literacy than making them sit and read through a beginner reader series and ticking off the chapters on a chart.


  13. The Myth that if they Don’t Read they Won’t Read:
  14. Reading requires practice. “When you read to your child you remove their impetus to read for themselves.” This could not be further from the truth. When your children are in the habit of listening to good books being read to them, the rich sounds of good language, those are the books that they will seek out to read for themselves eventually. Do not discount the reading your children are doing, little as it may be, even my children that were slowest to pick up a book were reading heaps: they read slogans, they read labels, they read shopping lists, they read instructions, they read comics, they read and read and read, but they may not be reading the books on their school reading list. Honestly I don’t really care what they read, as long as they have opportunities to read.

    I have one child who is obsessed with reading food labels and another who can’t wait for the weekly newspaper to be dropped off because they pour over the “specials” pages from the hardware store. Whatever they are reading, they are reading and that’s fabulous, but not necessarily making them more literate. Similarly, the child who reads thirty thousand easy readers about fairies, that aren’t exactly edifying but getting gold stars because they are reading books, aren’t necessarily becoming more literate. I feel that by reading aloud to them I am covering their literary skills in a way that most children aren’t getting because they are not being read too. I have found that once our kids reading skills catch up with their listening skills they will start by reading books they have loved having read to them and they will follow up with good books because that is what they are used to.


    And the se7en + 1th thing…

  15. A Shared Experience is a Memorable Experience:
  16. Oh the theory is that it would be so much easier if our kids did all their own reading. Easier isn’t always better. I don’t want to foster a world where “they read their books and I read mine.” There is a lot to be said for the shared experience and a great way to live alongside your kids and to create memorable memories, is to share a good read with them. My kids are perfectly capable of reading many of the books we read together as a family but a lot of the joy is the collective experience of a good book. Don’t wish all the good books on your kids, share them with them, books take us out of our daily grind, out of our small world of dishes and laundry. With books we are able to connect on a multitude of levels. Our kids can spot a stack of sticks and immediately everyone of us will be snapped straight back to the very rainy night that we sat and read about Eeyore’s house together. Heaps of experiences like that create a shared memory. Heaps of good books, if your children read them or you do, create a family culture that ties you together.


It turns out that while the ability to read is life-changing and there is no denying that reading can raise folks life experience enormously, there is a whole lot more to literacy than being able to read and write. Many a child is turned away from reading because they see it as yet another “test they have to pass” or “yet more homework that has to be completed.” It is up to us to turn literacy into something much richer for our children than just another box to check on the list of things to do for the day. Literacy is all about filling minds with rich words and language and giving our children a cultural and family heritage, a pride in who they are and where they come from. Yes, I am all for literacy and placing a book into every child’s hands and then reading it to them.

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Tags: Brilliant Books · Language Arts · Se7en at School

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lecia // Sep 10, 2014 at 7:53 am

    What a beautifully written and inspiring post! And I especially love the photo of your girls laughing — such happy memories being made in your home. Thank you for posting this — it feels so good to be slowing down now to read and snuggle and read some more together with my little people, and this post is perfect confirmation for me to ignore less important matters in the grand scheme of things! Thank you for writing!

  • 2 laurakim // Sep 10, 2014 at 7:58 am

    Gosh I have SO much to say on this 🙂

    I have a reader and a non reader. I tried so hard to get her to read but then her new OT said to me last year, “some people grow up never having read more than a handful of books and thats ok”

    It was a HUGE light bulb moment for me. I leave her now. Sometimes she gets excited about a book but because reading is hard for her, she loses interest quickly.

    Cameron reads and reads, I think he has read more books than I have, he literally devours them BUT he struggles with English (not a lot but the assumption that an avid reader=an A english student is incorrect).

    I will read books but battle to read articles and factual stuff, I get bored super quickly but David has read 2 books in the last 5 years but is constantly reading up on stuff that interests him!

    Its all very interesting isn’t it 🙂
    laurakim´s last blog post ..4 easy steps on how to survive a shopping trip with four kids in

  • 3 Marcia (123 blog) // Sep 10, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Love your post – you gave me such a lot to think about, and especially this part…

    And when I have been turned down, there is nothing to stop you sitting next to the “lego construction” of the day and simply beginning. I have found that even the most intense lego architect will slow their construction rate for a superb book.

    And the picture of the kids bundled around you is so precious.
    Marcia (123 blog)´s last blog post ..New washi project – washi tape pencil bags

  • 4 tami // Sep 10, 2014 at 9:08 am

    I love reading (thx to my mom reading books to me when I was small and then me reading the books to her later on) and when I started dating Anton (who hated reading because he is dyslexic) I simply got him to read Harry Potter which turned him into more of a reader than he was before. My daughter reads EVERYTHING. Food labels, my books over my shoulder, newspapers etc while my son is pouring over books like Asterix and Obelix, Batman and Top Gear journals. I think it’s more about the pictures for him but I think he will get there in his own time. You have pointed out one of the reasons I am looking into homeschooling. When you hear about kids finishing 12 years of school and still not being able to read and write it freaks me out. What a waste! When I do homework with them it’s like they haven’t been taught the work but they are expected to complete the worksheets so I find myself doing actual teaching when I get home from work. It is very frustrating. Thank you for writing this post. You have solidified a lot of the thoughts in my head and made me even more eager to keep reading. We are working our way through The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the moment and my word but C.S Lewis loves going off on a tangent! 😉 xx

  • 5 Kate // Sep 10, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    AMEN!!!! And I know all about those fairy books 🙂

  • 6 Carolyn // Sep 10, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Wonderful post. My son is not one to pick up a book very often, but he loved the book Wednesday Wars. Do you have any suggestions for books similar to this?

    Also, in your opinion what would be your top 3 read alouds for older boys?

    Thanks. I so admire your style of homeschooling.

  • 7 Carolyn // Sep 10, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Edited to say: I admire your style of LIVING. I wish I were better able to incorporate our schooling into our living – we’re working on it. 🙂

  • 8 se7en // Sep 11, 2014 at 1:10 am

    Thank you Lecia, I hear you … it is so easy to get sidetracked and get stuck on doing the things that don’t matter… I find myself constantly pulling back and reminding myself to make memories!!! I love that photograph too… it has been a long winter over here and there has been heaps of reading on the couch. thanks so much for stopping by and I hope you have a great day!!!

  • 9 se7en // Sep 11, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Oh LauraKim, isn’t it interesting… all the assumptions about reading and who must be reading how much and when… You can take rest in the fact that there are many key folk that didn’t read until they were in their late teens… I didn’t read for quite a while in the midst of having many kids and I had to retrain myself to concentrate… there is an art to it!!! Thanks so much for stopping by… Hope you are having a good week!!!

  • 10 se7en // Sep 11, 2014 at 1:18 am

    Hay Marcia, I have no problem invading my kids space, just a little, to share a fabulous read with them. We have made many many memories bundled around good books, reading aloud with your kids is so much more important than folks think and not just when they are little!!! You are so on my mind, hope you are having a good week!!!

  • 11 se7en // Sep 11, 2014 at 1:21 am

    Hay Tami, I am glad you enjoyed reading … feel free to ask any questions. And good for you, keep going with the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, it isn’t as easy as everyone says it is…. but well worth it!!! Your kids will remember it years down the line!!! thanks for stopping by and hope you have a great day!!!

  • 12 se7en // Sep 11, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Oh Kate, So good to hear from you, and hope you are all settling in well… Those fairy books!!! There are boy/girl versions of the same type of book, but they are all called “pink books” in our house… some kids just can’t seem to get enough of them and others won’t even look at them… takes all types!!! Hope you have a great week!!!

  • 13 se7en // Sep 11, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Hi Carolyn, thank you for your lovely comment… it has taken many years of homeschooling for it to be a lifestyle of learning and it is always changing as we learn new things and discover new ways of doing things… I love your question and think I will follow up with post on books that have been great read-alouds for our family… meanwhile, this post might help you to find a fabulous book to read. Wishing you all the best!!!

  • 14 Lori // Sep 11, 2014 at 1:50 am

    lovely <3
    Lori´s last blog post ..Why “do what you love” is not terrible advice

  • 15 Lillian // Sep 11, 2014 at 3:16 am

    This is great! Thank you! If you are looking for research on this subject, look at Charlotte Mason, probably her first volume. Thanks again for another thoughtful post.

  • 16 se7en // Sep 11, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Thank you Lori, So lovely to discover a comment from you. Hope you had a great week!!!

  • 17 se7en // Sep 11, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Brilliant Lillian, I haven’t read those in years, maybe it is time to go back and do a refresher course, Hope you have had a fantastic week and thank you so much for stopping by!!!

  • 18 Luke Holzmann // Sep 11, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    As one who struggle with the mechanics of reading but listened to my mom and dad read aloud, this resonated with me very much. Good stuff!

    Luke Holzmann´s last blog post ..It’s time to . . . clean house!

  • 19 se7en // Sep 11, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Hay Luke, What a lovely surprise to have you stop by. I absolutely love that I can do the reading for my young readers who aren’t reading mechanics yet. I have to say a love of books and a really good story has very little to do with the skill of reading… my guys are excellent listeners – don’t want to miss a beat. Thanks so much for stopping by…

  • 20 CarinT // Sep 16, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Thank you.

  • 21 se7en // Sep 17, 2014 at 8:33 am

    That’s my pleasure, Carin T… hope that helped, have a great day!!!

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  • 23 Christi {Jealous Hands} // Jun 28, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Currently reading through archives as I typically do when starting to prepare for a new school year – and I must’ve missed this post the first go round!

    So glad I found it, though – and I really appreciated your perspective on this. Lots of things I hadn’t considered, especially as it relates to my 10 year old who is b a r e l y reading at this time. Thank you for sharing, you changed my perception on what “literacy” actually means!

  • 24 se7en // Jun 28, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Oh Christi, I am so glad you found this post then… ten, shmen… don’t worry about it all. Five fluent readers right now, two beginners and one just out of the blocks. This time last year we had three readers… and it wasn’t in order of age at all… on of mine was thirteen and the other twelve before they could even consider reading a chapter book all on their own and now they are fluent and making up for lost time. All you have to is woork on literacy and eventually reading and all that decoding, follows… e.v.e.n.t.u.a.l.l.y… and I have found this to be followed quite swiftly by a galloping need to read many books on the shelf that had before then been left unattended. These kids tend to read the same books over and over again – I think they need a little longer to settle the story, so to speak. Anyway, all the best, I have a feeling that in a year or two you will have forgotten about this time!!! All the best!!!

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